Watch CBS News

Netanyahu aide: Israeli leader doing Congress a favor

WASHINGTON -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is running for re-election and his disagreements with President Obama over a possible nuclear deal with Iran are at the center of that campaign.

The political animosity between Washington and Jerusalem comes as the Obama administration is in final tense and delicate stages of nuclear talks with Tehran, and the historically bipartisan U.S.-Israeli relationship is caught in the middle, reports CBS News White House correspondent Major Garrett.

Netanyahu flies to Washington to address Congress amid tensions 00:25
What does Netanyahu's U.S. visit mean for an Iran nuclear deal? 05:48
Susan Rice: Netanyahu visit could be "destructive" to U.S.-Israel ties 08:31

Before leaving for Washington to address to the U.S. Congress, Netanyahu prayed at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, telling reporters he respected President Obama, but adding that he "strongly" opposes the agreement being drawn up with Iran by the U.S. and its European partners, which he claimed "could endanger our (Israel's) very existence."

Speaking to reporters on the flight to Washington, a member of Netanyahu's entourage said the Israeli leader had details about the still-developing deal with Iran that he believed U.S. lawmakers needed, but did not yet have.

"We know about details regarding the agreement being put together with Iran, and we feel that Congress members are unaware of these details," said the senior Israeli official, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

"According to the information we hold, the deal that is currently taking shape will leave Iran with the abilities to produce a nuclear weapon, if (Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah) Khamenei were to make such a decision."

The White House insists that it is after a deal to prevent Iran from making a nuclear bomb, reports Garrett, something Secretary of State John Kerry says has been accomplished by the interim deal already in place.

"I believe we deserve the benefit of the doubt to find out whether or not we can get a similarly good agreement with respect to the future," said Kerry over the weekend.

But Israel says the U.S. plan would leave too much of Iran's nuclear technology in-tact.

Israeli officials have repeatedly denied accusations that they are trying to scuttle the international negotiations with Iran.

"It is untrue that Netanyahu is against any diplomatic deal with the Iranians," said the senior official traveling on Netanyahu's plane, according to Haaretz. "We want to warn Congress against far-flung concessions in the deal that is taking shape, since Congress in the last barrier before a bad deal."

Speaking Sunday to "Face the Nation," House Speaker John Boehner said he did not regret inviting Netanyahu to speak without White House consent.

"What I do wonder is why the White House feels threatened because the Congress wants to support Israel and wants to hear what a trusted ally has to say," said Boehner.

The administration took pains Sunday to quantify U.S. support for Israel; more than $20 billion in aid since President Obama took office, and 18 U.S. vetoes of United Nations resolutions deemed "biased" against Israel.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.